Summer basketball leagues boost skills, confidence for DoT athletes
| Posted on TrentonMonitor.com August 10, 2015 |
By Rich Fisher, TrentonMonitor Correspondent |
It was a busy summer for the Notre Dame High School boys’ basketball team as the Irish try to get to the next level after a strong 2014-15 season.
Notre Dame’s team of returning lettermen, guided by assistant coach Rashaan Thompson, reached the playoff finals of Ewing’s Moody Park League before falling to Bordentown.
A separate team of incoming freshmen, led by head coach Bob Turco, also had a successful summer playing against established varsity teams in a league at the Monroe Sports Center.
“We had several team camps, we had quads at Montgomery and a JV League in Allentown,” Turco said. “Summer is a very important time for us. We play 24 to 30 different opponents by July 1.”
One of the key developments over the summer was the progress shown by senior point guard Troy Jones. Turco feels “he is going to help us have a special year.”
After coaching him at Moody all summer, Thompson feels the same way.
“Definitely,” he said. “I think Troy has come a long way since watching him as a freshman. He has matured, both academically and athletically. I think he’s really starting to believe in his ability to be able to run a team and coach (Turco) has all the confidence in him right now.”
After playing on the freshmen team in ninth grade and the JV team as a sophomore, Jones was elevated to varsity last season. He got his chance to play during the second half of the season when Ryan Turco was injured, and Jones did a stellar job in running the team and helping the Irish to the Mercer County Tournament championship game.
Entering the summer, Jones said he wanted to work on his shot and cut down on his turnovers by making better decisions.
“I just played my role like coach Turco told me to play,” Jones said. “He wanted me to step up, help this team and be a leader so I did that.”
In doing so, he led the Irish to the finals despite ND playing without its star player and leading scorer, as junior Manny Dixon broke his wrist in the Rider camp and missed much of the summer.
“Manny had hurt his wrist, he wanted to play tonight,” Jones said after the Moody championship game. “He tried to come and play but the coaches wouldn’t let him. They don’t want him to hurt his wrist again and not be ready for the regular season.”
Thompson was impressed with Jones’ improvement in penetrating to the basket, which is something he added to his arsenal. With an outside shooter like Mike Walley waiting on the perimeter, Jones’ has the option of dishing off, taking a shot or kicking out to Walley for a 3-pointer.
“That’s nice for us,” Thompson said. “Mike Walley’s been playing well, too, this summer. He made 74 threes last year and he’s been stepping up his game with Manny recovering from his injury.”
The incoming freshmen have also been impressive. Isaiah Wong was one of the standouts who played at both Monroe and Moody.
“He got to get a chance to play both because we needed some guys,” Thompson said. “He got a chance to flourish and learn playing between Troy and Sean (Hoggs). And we’ve got a slew of other freshmen kids that were pretty good working with Bobby.”
Jones concurred, saying that “I like our incoming freshman. They were really good this summer. After our seniors leave, they’re gonna be really good.”
But the seniors have one more year to go, and Jones plans to be right in the middle of all the action.